MT BUSINESS TRAVEL: Frequent flyer - Peter Sargent's guide toAmsterdam

MT BUSINESS TRAVEL: Frequent flyer - Peter Sargent's guide to Amsterdam - HOW TO GET THERE

by Peter Sargent, director of International Trade Finance at LloydsTSB Corporate
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

HOW TO GET THERE

Choose a business class seat with BA or KLM, or a budget bargain with easyJet or bmibaby. Most UK flights arrive at Schiphol airport. There's at least one flight an hour daily from major UK airports, and flights take just under an hour. Avoid Friday nights out of Schiphol and Monday mornings in - the sheer number of flights means inevitable delays. Schiphol is also famously foggy, which can delay early-morning departures.

AIRPORT TO TOWN

Taxis are quick and operate from outside the airport, but aren't cheap - around pounds 27. Trains are inexpensive and run every few minutes from the airport to Amsterdam central station - a 15-minute journey. They also stop at Amsterdam's business districts. Buses connect airport and town centre.

BEST HOTEL

I stay at the Grand Hotel 1, in the town centre (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197, www.thegrand.nl, 00 31 20 555 3111). It's a very traditional Dutch hotel, housed in the former Admiralty building. I also like the larger Japanese hotel, Okura 2 (Ferdinand Bolstraat 333, www.okura.nl, 00 31 20 678 7111).

BEST ROOM

At the Grand, ask for a room around the periphery of the hotel or at the end of a corridor, as these are larger. Rooms on the higher floors are the biggest.

BUDGET HOTEL

The Hotel Arena 3 is a quirky hotel, sited in an old monastery. ('s-Gravesandestraat 51, www hotelarena.nl, 00 31 20 850 2400). Rooms start at pounds 69.

BEST BUSINESS RESTAURANT

Try restaurants serving Dutch cuisine - typically, good-quality meat dishes and apple tarts for pudding. Like British food, it has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Two of the best are d'Vijff Vlieghen 4 (the Five Flies, Spuistraat 291-302, 00 31 20 530 4060), offering New Dutch cuisine, and De Silveren Spiegel 5 (the Silver Mirror, Kattengat 4-6, 00 31 20 624 6589), excellent for business conversations, as the tables are spaced to guarantee privacy. Dutch restaurants lack non-smoking zones.

BEST BARS

Amsterdam has great bars. Wynand Fockink 6 (31 Pijlsteeg) is good for Dutch gin, 'genever'. Cafe Hoppe 7 (Spui 18-20) is old, beautiful and central.

THREE HOURS TO KILL?

Amsterdam is small, so it's great to walk around. Stroll the canals and squares; if you're feeling adventurous, hire a bike, or try a hop-on, hop-off canal boat. There are lovely parks, the best of which is probably the Vondelpark 8 - perfect for people-watching. There are also numerous museums, all of them good. If you're free in the evening, watch a football match at the Amsterdam Arena 9: the Dutch are football-mad and it's a fun night out.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE

Meetings in Amsterdam may start formal but quickly loosen up. Amsterdammers are extremely direct and say the most outrageously blunt things, but it's just in their nature - they love to voice an opinion.

It's best to be direct in return, although don't be surprised if they like to have the last word. Rank impresses them; they can be quite hierarchical. They also have a wacky sense of humour.

BUSINESS LOCATIONS

The Zuidas (South Axis) is a new urban centre on the town's southern edge, which is being developed to attract international banks and businesses. South-east is Amsterdam Zuid-Oost 10, home to several international companies, hotels and shops. It's also the site of the Amsterdam Arena, where Ajax play.

BUSINESS EXPENSES

Tipping is roughly 10%. Restaurant prices compare to London - pounds 40-pounds 50 per head at top business restaurants. Hotel prices vary; most web sites list room rates.

HIDDEN GEMS

The oddly named Australian Homemade 11 (Singel 437) is a Belgian shop and restaurant serving fantastic ice cream. Its chocolates make great gifts. Cheese fans head for De Kaaskamer 12 (Runstraat 7), the best cheese shop in town. Get there early and you may be allowed unlimited free tastings.

SECRETS OF THE JET SET

Don't leave anything to the last minute, whether booking flights or hotels, or getting to the airport or meetings. Avoid cramming too many meetings into one day. If one overruns, you'll be late for subsequent appointments. In the Netherlands, being late is extremely bad manners.



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